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What Is Sorghum?

By Mark Orwell
What Is Sorghum?

The grass that's typically grown in your yard is not the only type of grass around. One of the many types is called sorghum, which resembles more of a grain than grass in the form of sod. It is used as feeder for animals and for other purposes.


Sorghum grows in large fields. It consists of tall stalks with grains on the end that look like corn husks or the husks of more popular grain, such as wheat. Growing around these stalks are long, leafy grass blades that are a bright green in color. These plants grow in tight groups and are generally planted en masse in grazing fields.


Sorghum is used in a few different ways. Most popularly, it is used as feeder for grazing animals such as cows or sheep. Some areas of the world, such as in Africa and South America, grow sorghum as a food product as well. Sorghum is among the most harvested cereal product in the world. It is less often used as a source of biofuel, because the juice extracted from it can be fermented into ethanol.


Certain varieties of sorghum can actually be harmful to animals when they are in the early stages of development. These varieties contain nitrates and hydrogen cyanide when they are in their infancy. They can also produce them when they are fully grown if they are in a stressful situation. High levels of cyanide can also be dangerous to humans who may ingest the plant in large amounts.


Sorghum is typically grown in tropical or subtropical climates in every continent that has them. The two largest producers of the grass are the United States, which grows mostly in the Northeast, and Africa, particularly in western, arid regions. Mexico, India and southeastern Australia are also major producers of different types of sorghum.


As the world is looking toward biofuel more and more as a replacement for gasoline, more research is going into sorghum. In particular, Texas A&M University has conducted research into how well sorghum would fare as a fuel source for conversion into ethanol. It is entirely possible that more and more sorghum will be grown and processed as biofuel by people looking for cleaner-burning fuel alternatives.